A Southwest Airlines pilot union is suing the carrier for “significantly” altering working conditions for staff to save on costs during the pandemic.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), a Dallas-based union representing 10,000 workers, filed the suit on Monday to the District Court in Dallas.
Allegedly, Southwest forced numerous pilots into quarantine without pay from December 2020 and imposed unfair treatment compared with corporate workers at the company.
“Southwest Airlines has issued and implemented an Infectious Disease Control Policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, that significantly altered the working conditions, rules, and rates of pay for pilots,” the union said in the suit.
SWAPA added that Southwest are prohibited to make changes to pilots’ pay without pre-negotiations with the union.
Allegedly, pilots at Southwest proposed changes to save money, but the company rejected “concrete solutions” and were “not receptive” to ideas, eventually warning over 1,000 pilots they would be furloughed.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, airline employees have been considered frontline workers, various times coming in close contact with infectious passengers and maintaining flights despite lockdowns.
The suit claimed that managers were given the chance to work from home and meet virtually, but pilots were “most at-risk” due to not receiving that option.
The suit added that “As hundreds of flights were being (and continued to be) cancelled and Pilots are being overworked on the line and stranded overnight,” the union would continue to demand action.
“Southwest remains committed to pilots’ health and welfare and to working with SWAPA,” said Russell McCrady, vice president of labor relations at Southwest.
“The safety of our employees and customers remains paramount at all times, and Southwest has a demonstrated legacy of putting employees first in our decisions.”
He added the company has maintained a 50-year history of not furloughing employees during the pandemic.
Airlines across the globe have faced scrutiny over employee treatment during the pandemic.
In July, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and Allied Pilots Association (APA) filed grievances to American Airlines for insufficient staff care.
According to the unions, the airline failed to provide appropriate facilities for staff on layovers, forcing them to arrange their own plans once landing, such as finding places to stay for themselves.
This came at a time of increased travel demand as borders began lifting in the US and travel restrictions eased.
Last week, Southwest airlines pledged to cut its average flights per day to 27 throughout September and October.
It comes as the low-cost carrier saw slower bookings as the outbreak of the Delta variant has spiralled.